Blog : Remember the 1100

Keith Adams

Riley Kestrel and its creator, Alec Issigonis
Riley Kestrel and its creator, Alec Issigonis

So, there we are – the BMC 1100 has now passed the magic half century. And doesn’t it still look fantastic?

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that in my humble opinion, the ADO16 remains the ultimate incarnation of the Issigonis vehicular template. Yes, the Mini sold more, but it wasn’t as fast a seller as the ADO16 (5.5 million in 40 years, compared with 2 million over 12 years) – and it was the 1100/1300 that truly stole the hearts of families across the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth.

But as Alexander Boucke recently proved in his epic Land’s End to John O’Groats run (to and from Germany) in his Vanden Plas Princess, the stylish little ADO16 is still more capable of cutting it in modern traffic.

But what is it about the 1100/1300 that made it so likeable? The styling – overseen by the masterful Battista Pinin Farina – is just about right from every angle. The engines are willing enough. The roadholding and ride are superlative for a car of its size. And you could buy any flavour you wanted from a family dealer proudly bearing the BMC rosette on just about every street corner.

If you’re thinking about taking the classic car plunge, and need a useable, serviceable, great-to-drive car that makes you feel good, I’d be hard-pressed not to place the 1100/1300 at or near the top of the reasonably priced list. If you’re feeling anywhere near inspired, take a look at the 1100 Club’s website (after taking in AROnline‘s massive 1100/1300 section, of course), and have a look at joining (in order to get access to the best information, as well as receiving the club’s magazine, the brilliantly-named Idle Chatter).

While you’re there, you could also take a look at Peter Tothill’s excellent autobiography of the 1100…

Of course, I’m still baffled at how things could go so wrong for BL in the wake of the 1100. It was near enough to perfection, and yet, thanks to the hatchback Morris Nomad and saloon Austin Apache, (which combined Pininfarina and Michelotti surprisingly well) denied to us Brits, could have been so, so much better.

Instead we got the Allegro. Ho-hum…

Keith Adams
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  1. Fantastic little cars. BMC and Issigonis at there best. Such a shame there are not more survivors. Great to see the cars at Gaydon the other weekend alongside another british great the P6 Rover. I even managed to see an impromptu demonstration of some Reginald Molehushand reversing!

  2. My uncle had one in the late 70’s early 80’s which just crumbled into red powder. If he could have got another decent one cheap at the time he would have.

  3. Did 48000 miles in my Morris 1100 from 26.03.65 to 01.05.1968, and p/x’d for a ford escort. Christ, what a shambles that thing was.
    Should have kept it and repaired as and when neccesary as in classic circles now, but the classic scene wasn’t fashionable then.
    Morris was MMM 46C, is it still around?

  4. As a Mini owner I have to admit the ADO16 is the better car . The Mini was rushed into production in the aftermath of the Suez crisis . More time was spent on getting the ADO16 right with plastic and moulded vinyl being used in the interior , the kind of stuff that had to be retro-fitted to the Mini from 1970 .
    The car was all the better for having its detail design work done at Cowley , away from Alec Issigonis’s glare and desire for austere design .
    Bertone did a great job redesigning the Mini for Innocenti , I’m sure they could have done a similar job on the ADO16 , instead we got the Allegro .
    Lord Stokes , George Turnbull , John Barber and Harry Webster always had plenty to say on the dire state of BMC in 1968, but were reticent about the Allegro , the product of their way of doing things .
    I believe the ADO16 had strong brand values on a par with the Mini , and BLMC squandered the goodwill built up by 1100/1300 series .
    At the zenith of the Mini and ADO16 popularity , BMC were pumping out 12000 of these Issigonis designs a week .

  5. Well who could forget Basil Fawlty battering his ADO16 with a tree branch…..! If there is one thing that immortalises the car it is that 🙂

  6. My favourite of the ADO16’s are Vanden Plas, Riley Kestrel, MG then Austin/Morris 1300GT. The entry level Austin & Morris 1100’s were still nice though. Always thought it was a shame when they were replaced by the Allegro…

  7. The Vanden Plas version destroyed the rule book that said cars below 1600cc should be basic to show they were a lesser breed of car to something like a Rover. Here was an 1100( later 1300 cc) car that had all the driving and cost attributes of an Austin version, but came with luxury fittings like leather seats and a walnut dash and extra soundproofing to make the driving experience a lot more bearable. When the 1300 cc version was launched, here was a car that could take on many two litre cars and did so with two litre refinement and comfort. Now who could say something like a Vauxhall Viva with its noise and spartan interior could offer this combination?
    Also the Vanden Plas 1100/1300 was way ahead of its time as other manufacturers still considered small= basic, noisy and cheap. Indeed it wasn’t until the early seventies when Ford and Chrysler started offering luxurious versions of the Escort and the Avenger that other manufacturers cottoned on to the fact there was a market for refined, well equipped small cars.

  8. BLMC did miss a trick though, the shape of the car could have easily spawned a hatchback version. That would have made it light years ahead of the game.

  9. Styling wise it seemed such a natural evolution from the Farina A40. The Riley and MG versions looked so right. Should have evolved into something truly sensational. Remember the shock we all had when the “All Agro” was launched with all its forced compromises and hideous shape. How did they let that sucker out the studio.

  10. To me, the ADO 16/1100/1300 series cars are underestimated in their influence on carmaking. When they came out in the early 1960’s, many cars of their class were rear engined, rear drive, or front engined RWD, poor handling, small inside and really ugly. While the Mini proceded it, the ADO 16 revolutionized the class. It was compact on the outside, but not too small like a Mini, big on the inside, handled with spirit, mechanically sound, looked decent, and priced to make a profit. It probably was the base used for a number of cars that came out in the 1970’s, including the Honda Civic, VW Golf and so on. While they did have seroius flaws from rust to sharing of the engine and transmission sump, and had problems in some foreign markets (especially the USA) the basic formula of them was innovative as it should be acknowleged.

  11. I always thought that was unfair that they never named this car at the factory. it was callded the 1100 or 1300 (the Riley got a name – Kestral) but the Middle to Medium sized car was commonly called the land crab parly because the looked like they were driving sideways (some probably were). but yes a very practical car and cofortable too :-), the 1300GT was fitted with the cooper engine more or less. alex

  12. @14 I liked the allegro shape, perhaps not some much the early one but the later ones with twin headlights was ok. slightly alfasud – euro shaped. not the standard 3 box shape from GM and F.o.r.d (fix or repair daily.

  13. Nobody currently has one?
    I have Austin 1300, bought by my father new in 1970. I think that flaws like rust or sharing of the oil in engine and transmission sump are not design problems, just poor execution. Theoretically, the weakest point of those cars should be Hydrolastic. It was rather new concept at the time, but, there are only few complaints after many years in service, because it was so well build.
    I don’t see anything wrong with Allegro shape, especially the later ones. I wanted to have one in mid 80’s as a replacement for the 1300, but luckily, the ADO16 was never replaced, only got “company”.

  14. I don’t think it is quite fair to say that development on the ADO16 ceased after 1967 , just the will of management to proceed to production was not there .
    The YDO9 , ADO22 and Morris 1500 show that work was in progress to improve the car , but the Leyland takeover stopped it right in its tracks.
    The Leyland men thought a new design would be more desirable , hence the decision to proceed with the ADO67 Allegro .
    Styling of the ADO67 was approved on September 19th 1969 , and that is the point from which the ADO16 began to wither on the vine .
    The MK3 version was an exercise in taking cost out of the car instead of improving it .

  15. A little anecdote from my late uncle Ted, who worked at PSF. After a strike had resulted in a lot of ADO16 bodies being stored outside, the instruction came to bring them indoors and clean them up with wire brushes before they went through the paint shop. My Uncle bought himself a Ford Cortina MkII in 1969.

  16. My Dad had a dark green 1100 when I was small,in the late 60s,well designed car,I remember my Dad saying was a bit underpowered with all the family in the car,after a bit he replaced with a Austin 1800.I liked the Wolseley and Riley version myself. Good feature,Regards Mark

  17. @16 – the Land Crab was the 1800.
    You had to be very skilled to hold an ADO16 sideways… the back came round very quickly on lift-off.

  18. My Dad had an MG 1300 back in the 70’s that was imported that he then converted to Right hand drive. He later when on to buy Wolsley 1800’s. I learned to drive on a 2 Door Harvest Gold Austin 1100, MPA 32K, and then passed my test in it. My Wife wrote it off in the early 80’s when she hit black ice and a granit wall, She survived but poor old MPA DID not..

    Dad now ownes a Riley 1100 that I found in an aircraft hanger which he fully reasored and now takes to shows. He was at the Gaydon rallies.

    I have just bought a 1965( registered 1-1-66 ) Riley Kestrel 1100 in Cumberland Green that is a bit of a Rusty mess at the mo but a Full restoration is in progress. Fantastic little car that has a place in our families hearts.

    Regards Mark in Wiltshire

  19. Sadly the very last great series of cars from the vestiges of Austin and Morris, and the last serious successful volume car made in the UK under an all British banner.
    The beginning of the end was at the end…..

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